The Construction D&I Conference | Sharing Perspectives on Inclusion

World Pride Month 2019 runs from May 12 until June 30 and very appropriately the popular breakfast Construction Diversity and Inclusion Conference, which took place at HubHub in Farringdon Street at the end of May, was a free half day conference established by Martin Smith, Diversity and inclusion Lead at Buro Four, for external networking groups, contractors and developers to share ideas, listen to speakers and learn from each other, in a safe inclusive environment.

Opening remarks were provided by Martin who emphasised the importance of diverse ideas because it’s only by sharing learning that we effect change; how inclusivity has been shown to positively impact Health & Safety; that it is on site where real change needs to happen and; the shocking statistic that 80% of gay individuals go back in the closet when they enter the construction industry.  

Kelly Canterford, a Chartered Surveyor with over 20 years’ experience in the property industry was our Chair for the Panel discussions and she began by asking the question: ‘How do you recruit a diverse industry?

The first panel to address the subject of Recruiting diverse talent – what worked? for them, was made up of recruitment specialists from across the industry. All agreed that the criteria for recruitment should be about talent and not about protected personal characteristics so they provided insights and tips on how and where to advertise; how to conduct the selection process in order to achieve a diverse short list and how to proceed when making an appointment. All emphasised the need for data and information about why people are leaving the industry and the need to publish D&I information gathered so there is transparency from the top down.


Anecdotal stories were provided highlighting the need to educate middle managers so that they don’t go for the all too easy option of the mate who’ll “fit in”. The point was made that the last thing wanted is a culture fit because if we do the same thing, we’ll get the same result and attract the same people.  The quote by Einstein summed it up neatly: “No problem has been solved by the brain who created it”. Diverse ideas are needed because we are not going to evolve and innovate as a sector if we don’t challenge accepted behaviours and recruitment methods.

Important points also included were - that if people are able to be their authentic selves in the workplace they are up to 30% more productive; if senior managers are open about themselves this will give staff permission to do the same; the importance of diverse talent at senior level as role models and of support networks, for retaining staff.

The second panel looked at Pushing for D&I in Procurement. Pamela McInroy revealed that it was its fully flexible workforce that helped HS2 win the contract and that HS2 has measurement structures in place for its supply chain. Also discussed was how gender and ethnicity pay gap legislation will play an important part in bringing about change going forward.

The third and final panel considered Next Steps and took questions from the audience. This was an informative session which highlighted issues around quotas and targets; how ‘size’ shouldn’t dictate the success in implementing good practice – a small company is more agile and can move more quickly than a large one, which may have the advantage of more resources; the benefits of mentorship and cross mentorship, how intersectionality in mentorship is really effective; the importance of networks, forums, onsite meetings and training to reinforce positive messages of tolerance and collaboration.

A very moving Keynote was provided by Antonia Belcher, Founding Partner at MHBC. Antonia has more than 40 years’ experience in the construction and property industries and leads her own business that she formed in 2007. Transitioning in 2000-2003 in a very male dominated working environment, where there was no history or visible LGBT influences to draw on, she is a vocal force for positive change. Read her story here.


Antonia Belcher is a Board Director of the Chartered Surveyors Training Trust, Diversity Role Models, The Terrence Higgins Trust, a Liveryman of The Worshipful Company of Chartered Surveyors and she particularly seeks equal opportunities for Women/LGBT + within the Construction Industry. She was shortlisted in 2017 for the Gay Times ‘Success in Entrepreneurship’ Gary Frisch award and in 2018 nominated in the NatWest British LGBT Awards – Inspirational Leader category, and nominated amongst a group of “exceptional surveyors from The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)” to celebrate their 150th Anniversary, showcasing the significant and positive impact that surveyors have made to society through those 150 years.

Chair: Kelly Canterford is D&I Programme Manager for Changing the Face of Property and Property Needs You, a collaboration of 10 of the largest real estate companies in the UK who are working together to accelerate diversity and inclusion across the real estate industry.

Panel Members:

One: Jane Hatton (Director at Evenbreak), Priya Aiyer (D&I Lead for LGBT and Ethnic Diversity networks at Mace), Sharon Slinger (Director at Consulting Rainbows), Alex Lawrence (UK EDI Lead at Ramboll) and Anja Skvortsova (Partnership Director at Audeliss).

Two: Henrietta Frater (HSE and Wellbeing at The Crown Estate); Martin Smith (Buro Four); and Pamela McInroy (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at HS2) and Jane Hatton (Director at Evenbreak).

Three: Julian Phatarfod (Co-Chair LGBT+Network at WSP); Richard Chapman-Harris, Head of Inclusion and Responsibility at Mott Macdonald); and Danna Walker (Founder and Director of Built by Us).